GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.
Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.
Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record.
”We’re confident in our abilities. We just stick with it, we don’t panic,” Turris said. ”We find ways. We know what we’re capable of when we’re playing to the level that we want to play, we just have to play like that for a full game.”
The Predators weren’t overlooking the last-place Coyotes, given that Arizona was 11-3-2 in its last 16 games.
”We needed a little bit of a push there in the third period to win the game,” forward Austin Watson said.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Christian Dvorak scored for Arizona, and Darcy Kuemper – out on Tuesday due to an illness – stopped 26 shots.
Fiala scored the go-ahead goal at 4:31 of the third, his 23rd of the season, after Turris won a draw and quickly centered to Fiala. Turris had earlier tied the score at 2 when he took a pass from Fiala from behind the net and put the puck past Kuemper 22 seconds into the period.
Turris lost on a goal on a replay challenge for offside in the first period.
”Just trying to do the right things, create opportunities. When you get enough chances, eventually they’re going to go in,” Turris said.
The Coyotes welcomed back head coach Rick Tocchet, who left the team Monday on a leave of absence to be with family. Tocchet’s mother died Wednesday at age 93. He rejoined the team in time for a morning skate on Thursday.
Ekman-Larsson gave the Coyotes a 2-1 lead at 16:28 of the second period, seconds after an Arizona power play had expired. It was his 11th of the season, and Clayton Keller got an assist for his team-leading 51st point.
Dvorak’s 15th goal – fifth this month – came at 4:09 of the second. His first shot was blocked, but he continued forward, got the rebound and slotted the puck past Rinne for a 1-0 Coyotes lead. Dvorak set a new career high in points in a season with 34.
The Predators answered moments later. Craig Smith delivered a pinpoint centering pass to Ellis, who needed only guide the puck past Kuemper at 5:49. Ellis picked up his seventh goal of the season, Smith his 20th assist.
Turris scored off a rebound at 3:40 of the first period, but the Coyotes challenged for offside and the goal was overturned.
”I would have liked to see a couple better defensive zone decisions, but it’s a game of mistakes. We pushed them and that is why they are a great team, because they win those types of games,” Tocchet said.
The only other noteworthy event of a scoreless first period came when Ekman-Larsson, after a scuffle along the boards with a Predators player, took an inadvertent elbow to his face from a referee skating past him. Ekman-Larsson was handed a two-minute penalty for cross-checking, adding insult to injury.
The Coyotes gave themselves a chance with their penalty-kill unit keeping the Predators from adding to their lead despite a 5-on-3, but could not equalize against Rinne.
”The guys know that they’re chasing points right now. Everything we talk about is to try and improve our position for the playoffs and home ice,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
NOTES: Tocchet was asked before the game how he is holding up after his mother’s passing. He said watching the Coyotes beat the Los Angeles Kings in the overtime shootout Tuesday helped him cope for a time. ”My mom had a good run. So, big hockey fan,” he said. ”It was tough, but temporary relief there when I was watching the team play against L.A. and how well they played. It was a nice feeling with the family.” … No. 1 goalie Antti Raanta (lower-body injury) isn’t quite ready to return but is getting closer, as is C Zac Rinaldo from injury, Tocchet said. … Predators C Calle Jarnkrok will miss the rest of the season with an upper-body injury suffered in Tuesday’s win over Winnipeg, the team announced on its website. Jarnkrok had 35 points in 68 games. … C Ryan Johansen skated in his 500th career game. … A cheer rose from the crowd when the final score of the Arizona-Buffalo NCAA tournament game was announced. The greater Phoenix area is home to Arizona rival Arizona State University.
Predators: At Colorado on Friday night.
Coyotes: Host Minnesota on Saturday.